26 August 2007

Michel Platini still thinks the Champions League is too successful as it is

Averse as I am to agree with anything Alex Ferguson says, for once, he’s talking some sense.

Sir Alex Ferguson has come out strongly against Michel Platini's proposals to award Champions League qualification to the winners of the FA Cup and other domestic knockout tournaments around Europe, arguing that such a move would devalue the efforts of clubs fighting for places week after week in the leagues.

The Uefa president originally said he wanted to see fewer teams from the big European nations in the Champions League and more champions from smaller countries, though the various vested interests in the major leagues were never going to vote for such an idealistic scheme.

Platini's present plan is a watered-down version that would cut the number of Premier League qualifiers from four to three, with an extra place for the FA Cup winners. In view of the fact that the FA Cup has been a virtual monopoly of top-four clubs for the past decade, little would actually change and the status of the FA Cup could benefit, yet Ferguson believes a six-game route to Champions League riches is insultingly easy.

'I don't agree with it, the Champions League is for what you do in the league,' the Manchester United manager said. 'You can win the FA Cup, like Chelsea did last season, playing nobody up until the final. Or the semi-final at least. Does that warrant entry into the Champions League?

'We played Millwall in a final three years ago, and what a game that was for us. No disrespect to Millwall but I don't think a final like that should have Champions League qualification riding on it. It's totally ridiculous. Players who have battled through 38 league games don't deserve to see that. This is a tough league, and it will be tougher than ever this year.

'In fairness to Uefa they do normally listen to clubs and club managers' comments before making a decision, and there's a European coaches meeting next week. I'm sure coaches will be making their opinions known, and in my personal opinion this idea is absolutely ridiculous.’

Platini refuses give up on this. He’s going to change the Champions League come hell or high water, no matter how successful the tournament is.

And evidently making the 4th qualification spot for cup winners instead of the 4th placed team in the league is a valid compromise. Of course, it doesn’t do nearly as much to promote his stated aim of getting more teams from smaller countries further in the tournament, but that might be less of a concern now that he’s been elected.

From what the plan appears to be, cup winners will go through a separate qualification process, with 4 advancing, so 12 other teams will still have to play up to three games to qualify for the money-spinning group stages. There will just be more of those smaller-country teams in those qualifiers, and they won’t really have that much more of a chance of qualification.

Also, I was under the impression that Spanish and Italian cups are far less prestigious than the FA Cup. I imagine this suggestion will be taken about as well as Fergie took it in those two countries.

If you were wondering, the last time someone other than Liverpool, United, Chelsea, or Arsenal won the FA Cup was Everton (ugh) in 1995. So after all that, the 4th placed team would still get in, but they’d have to go through the silly separate two-round qualification for cup winners. Right.

Full details of the “plan” here.

Past diatribes about changing the Champions League:
Platini’s new proposals
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

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